H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival
Halloween Month is fast drawing to a close here at Longbox Graveyard, but there’s still time for me to duck in a little mini-review of the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon, which I attended late last month in San Pedro, California.
My son, Jack, and I attended the festival on a whim. Jack’s mad for H.P. Lovecraft, and I enjoy him in small doses. A festival, of course, is anything but a small dose, but while the focus was on all things Mythos, the films on offer provided straight horror tales as well as the expected stories about half-mad Massachusetts antiquarians. Mostly the festival screened short films, which were never less than earnest and frequently quite good, especially “I Am Not Samuel Krohm” by Sebastien Chantal — an atmospheric short about a man or may or may not be the lynchpin of a monstrous conspiracy — which claimed the festival’s coveted “Most Lovecraftian” award.
The festival was held over three days, though the bulk of the film programing was on Friday and Saturday nights, with Sunday reserved for a brunch, lectures, and gaming. I’d characterize the gathering at somewhere between a large party and a small convention (the organizers pegged the crowd at 400), and in all it was a friendly affair, with plenty of opportunities to meet and mingle with your fellow enthusiasts, if that was your thing. My son and I were content to just huddle in the dark and watch movies with our fellow Beard-Os and Weird-Os, but there were pub crawls and trivia and all sorts of after-hours events that also sounded like fun.
The high point of the weekend for Jack and I wasn’t a movie, but instead … a radio show!
Saturday night featured a live stage presentation of The Shadow Over Innsmouth by Dark Adventure Radio Theater, a thoroughly professional troop of voice-acting enthusiasts who offered a very faithful adaptation of my favorite Lovecraft story with scores of sound effects and the full-throated participation of the audience, who provided their own Deep One grunts and groans when a lighted sign on the stage implored them to, “Croak!” Dark Adventure Radio Theater has about a dozen Lovecraft radio plays available for download or on CD, and I expect a few of their shows will make their way into Jack’s stocking this Christmas.
A critical component of the Festival was the venue, the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro, a landmark 1931 art deco movie palace.
The theater was spectacular, and the perfect setting for the Festival. The seats were a bit cramped (pro tip: for more leg room, seek out the first row of the balcony!), but it was like a trip through time to visit this wonderfully-restored theater and remember when movies weren’t all about multiplexes and podmalls. San Pedro’s 6th Street, where the theater was located, was also a trip — shadowed storefront after storefront, full of pubs and tattoo parlors, wonderful hobby shops, unique book stores, and crazy art galleries. That strip of town is worth a visit all by itself, but was even more fun late at night after the Festival, when the theater disgorged its hoard of Lovecraft loonies to mingle in this vibrant district of hipsters, bikers, drunks, and Deep Ones (I could swear I saw a couple!)
This was the fifth year for the Los Angeles Festival (the original version has run for decades in Portland, Oregon), and the festival has promised to return to the Warner Grand in May of 2015, as it moves from a Fall to a Spring schedule. That tight turn-around might be too quick for Jack and I to return, but I will keep this show on my calendar, and shouldn’t be surprised if before too long I heed the Call of Cthulhu and return to the very pleasantly bizarre H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival!